Editorial: Mass. Dems must get on board bus buy plan

Senators Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley – this is your moment to shine.

The money pit that is the MBTA is now in Gov. Maura Healey’s lap and there is little good news out of the gate.

As the Herald reported, the T needs to purchase 200 to 600 electric buses and hire 740 additional drivers to meet the current demands of a Greater Boston population that grew 53% over the past 50 years while the region’s bus fleet decreased, a new report found.

This comes after calls for fare-free buses in Boston (and amid a pilot program for select routes). It’s tough to promote transportation equity when the stock of buses is falling short.

There are a host of MBTA issues that need fixing and funding, but the bus system lands at the sweet spot of climate change goals, equity and improving local communities.

All issues near and dear to Warren, Markey and Pressley’s hearts,  not to mention that of our new governor.

A report by LivableStreetsAlliance and the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy found that  “While the regional economy expands, employment industries boom and population soars and shifts, the number of buses, bus facilities and level of service remains largely unchanged, and in some cases, decreased.”

The solution, as it is with so many things, is money, and the report suggests the Legislature and Healey’s administration work together to come up with the cash starting this year. It noted that legislation should include “active financing considerations” for bus service. That sounds a bit ominous for taxpayers, and it overlooks our friends on Capitol Hill.

Warren, Markey and Pressley have long been anti-fossil fuel, pro-equity, Green New Deal advocates. Securing the funds for a fleet of new electric buses for the folks back home is right up their alley.

They’ve each crowbarred cash out of Washington for local transportation projects.

In August, Pressley secured $20 million in new federal transportation funding for Boston’s Roxbury Resiliency Corridors Project. It was earmarked to support the construction of safety improvements at several intersections and provide enhanced mobility for all along sections of Melnea Cass Boulevard, Malcolm X Boulevard, and Warren Street in Roxbury.

Also that month, Markey, and Reps. Lori Trahan and Seth Moulton announced $7.6 million in additional federal funding for the T to support a proposed project to replace the century-old South Elm Street Bridge with a modern two-track rail bridge in Haverhill.

And Warren has been in on discussions to use the Infrastructure Law as an investment vehicle for the T.

This is the perfect opportunity for our Democratic delegation to flex their collective muscle on Capitol Hill and bring home the bacon, as it were.

There will be a lot of issues distracting them – investigations into Hunter Biden, the ongoing discoveries of classified documents at the home of Biden and now Mike Pence, and an already fractious Congress taking on the debt ceiling.

But their constituents need them to do what they elected them to do: step up for the voters in Mass.